1/27/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Atheist Arrogance

A bottle of Arrogant Bastard Ale.Image via WikipediaBy Valerie Tarico

Atheists are arrogant. Who hasn’t heard it?

Arrogance is just one of their repellent qualities, of course. They are also ungenerous, cold, lonely, untrustworthy, amoral, and aggressive. You shouldn’t leave them around children. When I spoke last week to a group called Seattle Atheists, the organizer positioned me far from the door, and I speculated aloud about whether I should be worried for my safety, given what we know about atheist ethics.

But the most common accusation hurled against atheists is that they are insufferably arrogant. In my experience, this accusation is rarely about a specific encounter: I was talking with Joan, my atheist neighbor down the street last week and do you know how I was treated by that insufferable witch?!

No, it is more like a mantra.

In Seattle, there’s a chain of hamburger joints called Dick’s. People who find themselves on the topic of hamburgers will say, “Dick’s is great” almost as an opener, before they move on to the details of the conversation. Amazingly, I’ve heard this even from folks who have never eaten there. Dick’s is great. Atheists are arrogant.

The unflinching tones adopted by The Four Horsemen
are not more harsh or critical than what we accept routinely in academic debate or civic life. It is the subject matter that is the issue.
The accusation provides cover for those who want dismiss thinkers like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, or Christopher Hitchens. I’ve often marveled that anyone could read Harris’ book—written as graduate student's post-9-11 cry of anguish, or Hitchens’ litany of social corrosion and atrocity in the names of gods, or Dawkins’ urgent appeal to evidence and reason, or Dennett’s academic analysis of human information processing, and find themselves reacting above all to perceived arrogance. Images of people jumping from fiery buildings. Mutilated genitals. Radically cool glimpses of our mental circuitry – and the dominant reaction is disgust about arrogance?

Interestingly, the accusation also provides cover for those who agree with the Four Horsemen. Young non-theists writing even for edgy places like Wired Magazine or The Stranger go to some lengths to say I’m not like those atheist guys. We all can agree to loathe them. Mind you, they do make a decent point or two . . . . The ugly atheist stereotype is so strong, that people feel like they need to distance from atheism’s iconic figures if they want a shot at being heard--or perhaps, even, liking themselves.

But what’s underneath the stereotype? For years, as a practicing psychologist, it was my job to listen for the feelings and needs behind the tone, and I think a host of feelings and yearnings are obscured by the “arrogance” label. Below are some of the emotions I hear in the writings and conversations of self-identified atheists, and some my imperfect hypotheses about where they come from:

Resolve
Nobody calls him or herself an atheist in our culture unless they are “out” for a reason. It’s like looking white in Alabama and making a point to tell people about your black father. Freethinkers who adopt the label publicly have decided for one reason or another to take the heat, and they are not necessarily representative of the broad range of freethinkers who may choose other labels or none at all.

For some people, the reasons for being out are personality driven or developmental. For some they are political. For some they come from a deep conviction that we must find some way to change the public conversation about what is good and what is real and how to live in community with each other. All self-labeled atheists are braced, steeled against the stereotype, but they have varied reasons for looking society in the eye and saying, This is who I am. What they have in common is a sense of determination.

Frustration
Theism gets a pass on the rules of reason and evidence that normally guide our social discourse. In a boardroom or a laboratory, we don’t get to say, “I just know in my heart that this product is going to sell,” or “This drug works even though the experiment didn’t come out that way.”

Cartoonist Wiley Miller captured atheist frustration perfectly in a recent Non Sequitur entitled “The Invention of Ideology:”
One caveman stands in the rain.
Another behind him under shelter comments, “Um, why you standing in the rain?”
“It not raining”
"Yes it is."
"No it not."
“Huh? Water fall from sky. That rain.”
“That your opinion.”
"Not opinion. Fact. See? Raindrops."
"Don't need to look. Already know it not rain."
“If it not rain, then why you wet and me dry?”
(Pause) “Define ‘wet’ . . . ”
“Oww . . . Brain hurt!”
What does frustration sound like? When it doesn’t sound like brain pain, it sounds impatient,sharp and distancing.

Incredulity
Believers look at the dogmas of religions other than their own and see them as silly, and yet find their own perfectly reasonable. Atheists, except for those few with formal training in the psychology of belief, find it incredible, almost unbelievable that the faithful don’t perceive some higher order parallel between their religion and others—and run the numbers, so to speak. Of course that’s not how ideology works, and per cognitive scientist Pascal Boyer, rationality is like Swiss Cheese for all of us. But if you buy the Enlightenment view of man as a rational being, it’s easy to get sucked in and expect rationality and then be incredulous when you simply can’t get smart people to bind themselves to the obligations of logic and evidence.

Offense
It feels obnoxious to have people assume that you have no moral core, that you rejected Christianity because you wanted to sin without guilt, or that you are damaged goods, the object of pity. Fundamentalist Christians, when they have given up on conversion, treat non-believers as agents of evil who reject God, like Lucifer did, out of willful defiance. Modernist Christians express benign sympathy -- and look for early childhood wounding (in particular at the hands of fundamentalists) that left the scarred freethinker unable to enjoy the wonder and joy of faith. Both fundamentalists and modernists assume that freethinkers miss out on wonder, joy and a sense of transcendent meaning. Atheists take offense, even when these assumptions are couched kindly and are well intended.

Resentment
Atheists, along with the rest of America, listened to a presidential inauguration in which the preachers, combined, got almost as much talk time as the president. Every year they help their kids figure out what to do with the anti-communist Pledge of Allegiance (Go along with it? Stand silently? Substitute “under magic”? How about “under Canada?”) They pay their bills with “In God we trust.” They listen to born-again testimonials as a part of public high school graduation ceremonies and reunions. They do twelve years of training and then twelve hours of surgery and then read in the paper that a child was saved miraculously. Sometimes they get mad.

Pain
On websites like exChristian.net, doubters often lurk for months or even years before they finally confess their loss of faith. Because this is so taboo, they struggle over how to tell their children, or spouses or parents or congregations--especially the fallen ministers. They wrestle with guilt and fear – because religion says that they should be guilty and afraid. They deal with rejection, even shunning. Some of them come out at tremendous personal cost. See “When Leaving Jesus means Losing Your Family.” Although this doesn’t apply to all freethinkers, for those who are in the process, the pain is real. And pain has an edge. Try selling anything, including dogma, to a woman with a migraine.

Empathy
Not all atheist pain about religion is personal. Many nontheists feel anguished by the sexual abuse that is enabled by religious hierarchy, by women shrouded in black and girls barred from schools, by the implements of inquisition that lie in museums, by ongoing Christian witch burnings in Africa and India, or by those images of people leaping from windows. Even less dramatic suffering can be hard to witness– children who fear eternal torture, teens who attempt suicide because they are gay and so condemned, women who submit to their own abuse or the abuse of their children because God hates divorce. To the extent that we experience empathy, these events are can feel unbearable, and the more so because they seem so unnecessary.

Moral Indignation
Atheist morality is rooted in notions of universal ethical principles, either philosophical or biological, and often centered on empathy and equity. Since the point of atheist morality is to serve wellbeing, suffering caused by religion often triggers not only horror but moral outrage. Believers tend to think that belief itself is the basis for morality, and each sees his or her religion as a positive moral force in a corrupt world. Because of this, believers often fail to recognize atheist outrage as being morally rooted. They don’t understand that the force driving some outspoken atheists is a sense that religion pushes otherwise decent people to do things that are morally wrong. When, for example, the religious oppose vaccinations, or contraception, or they come to care more about gay marriage than hunger, an atheist is likely to perceive that religion undermines morality. When theism sanctifies terrorism or war, atheists are appalled.

Love of Life
What folks like Sam Harris and Bill Maher are saying, as loudly as they know how, is that they love this imperfect world--and they fear that anti-rational ideologies may destroy all that they cherish most: natural beauty, community, inquiry, freedom, and love itself. They believe wholeheartedly in the power of religion, and this terrifies them. Why?

Need we even ask? Think about the Twin Towers, the Taliban, the Religious Right's yearning for Armageddon, the geometric progression of our global population curve and the Church's opposition to family planning as a moral responsibility. Think about the trajectory of human religious history - what has happened in the past when unquestioned ideologies controlled government and military. Think abstractly about a social/economic/international policy approach that is unaccountable to data, one that sees doubt as weakness, agreement among insiders as proof, and change as bad. Think concretely about suitcase nukes in the hands of Pentecostals or Wahabis who believe that a deity is speaking directly through their impulses and intuitions.

The prophets of the godless are crying out that 21st century technologies guided by Bronze Age priorities may bring about a scale of suffering that our ancestors could describe only as hell. You might not agree with them, but to understand their in-your-face stridency as anything more complex than arrogance, you have hear the depth of their urgency.

Desperation
Many freethinkers feel like no matter what they say, the words fall on deaf ears. “Hey,” say former fundies. “Guess what I found out. The Bible contradicts itself. Do you want to see where?”
“I never meant to end up godless,” say former moderates. “Do you want to hear how it happened?”
“’A theory’ isn’t something we dream up afterhours,” say biologists. “Can we tell you what a scientific theory is to us?”
“We think we’ve figured out how those out-of-body experiences and bright lights work – at a neurological level,” say neuroscientists. “Care to know?”
“Religion may increase compassion toward insiders at the expense of outsiders,” say sociologists. “Are you interested in finding out?”
“What if we can no longer afford beliefs without evidentiary basis?” ask the bell ringers. “What if unaccountable belief inevitably produces some that are dangerous?”

It’s not the fundamentalists they are hoping to engage. It is moderate, decent people of faith—the majority of the human race. But are moderate believers open to such questions? Many outsiders think not, and people who feel hopeless about being heard either go silent or get loud.

Let’s come back to arrogance.

Yes. Atheists are susceptible. They think they have it right. (So do we all.) And yes, those nonbelievers who underestimate the power of viral ideologies and transcendent experiences tend to think that belief must be an IQ thing, meaning a lack thereof. And yes, dismay, pain, outrage, incredulity and desperation all make people tactless, sometimes aggressively so.


But I don’t think any of these is why frank talk from atheists so consistently triggers accusations of arrogance. The unflinching tones adopted by the Four Horsemen are not more harsh or critical than what we accept routinely in academic debate or civic life. It is the subject matter that is the issue.

I would argue that atheist talk about religion seems particularly harsh because it violates unspoken norms about how we should approach religion in our relationships and conversations. Here are some of those rules:
  • It’s plain old mean to shake the faith that gives another person comfort and community, so don’t do it.
  • If you doubt, keep it to yourself.
  • Practice don’t-ask-don’t tell about unbelief.
  • Be respectful of other people--respecting people means respecting their beliefs.
  • If someone tries to convert you, be polite because they only mean well.
  • Remember that faith is good and even a brittle, misguided faith is better than none at all.


Outspoken atheists break all of these rules. They do and say things that are verboten. They insert their evidences and opinions where these are clearly unwelcome. Is this the height of self-importance?

Recently I interviewed former Pentecostal minister Rich Lyons about his journey out of Christianity. We found ourselves laughing about the velvet arrogance of our former beliefs: that we, among all humans knew for sure what was real; that we knew what the Bible writers actually meant; that our instincts, hunches and emotions were the voice of God; that we were designated messengers for the power that created the galaxies and DNA code -- and that He just happened to have an oh-so-human psyche, like ours. What other hubris could compare, really?

Maybe it is time for all of us glass-house dwellers, theists and freethinkers alike, to move beyond conversations about arrogance and onto much needed conversations about substance.


Valerie Tarico is the author of The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.

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1/26/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Thoughts on demon possession and exorcism

Demon Seated in a GardenImage via WikipediaBy Lance_ec

I was just watching the movie "The Golden Compass" and was intrigued by the use of the word Demon (Daemon?) for the spirit of a person that walks along side them in animal form. My kids raised their eyebrows when they first heard it in the movie, since they were already familiar with the negative Christian use of the word.

So I looked the term up on Wikipedia, and a few other places and found a whole slew of differing ideas regarding demons from Greek, Roman and other mythologies. Mostly they seem to be something between divine and mortal. Some were good demons that helped and advised people, others were more of a hindrance. This is not really all that unexpected, as people attempted to make sense of the random events of the world and attribute these events to some intelligence that they assumed was moving behind the scenes. It also makes more sense to the ancient mind than a single god, since the random events of daily life are too sporadic to be thought of as being controlled by a single deity. Having lots of gods and/or demons interacting with humans and the world makes more sense in light of the complexities of daily life. It also helps get the Christian God off the hook for the bad things that happen, since you can blame it on one of those pesky little demons.

The reason I bring this up here is that I've heard lots said about the various mythological roots of the story of Jesus' life, but I had never thought about all the other random beliefs that find their way into the bible; in this case, demon possession and exorcism. I also find it interesting that there seems to be a difference in the concepts of demons in the Old vs. the New Testaments. I'm no expert, but it seems obvious to me that the pagan beliefs concerning demons got introduced to the early Christians and Jews via the Roman occupation. It is just another example of myths and religious beliefs of the times being mixed in with Judaism to create the whole Jesus myth.

What is amazing to me is that so many otherwise rational adults still believe that demons are invisibly flying around today wreaking havoc on humankind. They believe there is some sort of invisible spiritual war being waged around the world as well as inside our own heads. Oooh, scary!!!

But what is really scary for me, is that I used to be one of those otherwise rational adults that believed this crazy stuff. Luckily, the demon concept is one of the many parts of Christianity that helped flick on the light of reason in the rational part of my brain.

Part of me back then could believe in some sort of demonic influence on people's thoughts. But when reading the bible I saw that demons were also blamed for physical ailments and psychological disorders. I also realized that the exorcism thing was a total scam. It was obvious to me that demons were not responsible for all the things that people would have blamed on them 2000 years ago. If Jesus was God, wouldn't he have known that he was actually helping a chemical imbalance or neurological disorder in a person's head, rather than casting out demons? This, among other things, led me to question what else in the bible could have been invented by ignorant people.

Now I find it funny (or sad really) that people think I am currently under demonic influence. In fact, the owner of my previous company told me to my face that after my de-conversion she had told her kids to "be careful in conversations with Lance, because when he talks, it's not just Lance talking." Yup, she thinks I'm a mouthpiece of Satan, because unbeknown to me, demons are influencing my thoughts and using my mouth to spread their evil ideas. Which according to her are any ideas that don't fit her Christian worldview. Anything that goes against what she already believes must be coming directly from the gates of hell. That is quite an effective defense system to keep reason and logic - as well as any new ideas - from entering her brain. Bummer for her.

So there you have it. In my opinion, demons are a remnant of ancient mythology that got mixed in with other myths and religious ideas to form Christian beliefs. But this ancient remnant still works as a powerful deterrent against questioning beliefs or allowing reason to penetrate the thick wall that Christians place around their fragile faith. It is part of the reason that Christians feel that they can't trust their own thought processes, and it works alongside the fear of hell to keep people enslaved to a dangerous ancient myth.



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1/25/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Gimme an A

Image of Sam Singleton  from TwitterImage of Sam Singleton Sam Singleton, Atheist Evangelist, Sets Forth New Naming Protocol for Atheists, Believers, and Agnostics

Can’t nobody tell Brother Sam nothing about the abuse gets heaped on atheists every day. I’m a goddamned authority. I figure I get abused as much as about anybody short of Brother Richard Dawkins himself. But you don’t have to be any full-time professional God slayer to feel the cold sting of stigma that comes with proclaiming yourself an atheist. There isn’t a one of us that hasn’t been talking to someone and, having divulged our atheism, gotten the look, the one that says You might as well just save your breath because I quit listening back when you dropped the A-bomb.

Even Brother Sam can see why so many atheists are casting about for a tag that isn’t so off-putting to the believing class. As for me, I personally do not give two shits. The believing class can accept me as I am or kiss my atheistic ass.

But some atheists dislike the way the word itself defines us by our relationship to God. And that is a damn good point. But if you can’t use atheist for that reason, you can’t use non-believer or non-theist, either. After that, the euphemistic pickins go to getting slim.

I say, let’s just call ourselves “A’s” and have done with it. And yes, I understand that some people will accuse us being elitist. So let’s all agree that the A just stands for atheist and not being at the front of the line. God forbid atheists should ever be at the front of the line.

Believers can be B’s. It’ll do ‘em good.

We A’s need a symbol. Can’t nobody compete with the B’s when it comes to symbols, so we’ll have only one. And since plenty of atheists already use the Scarlet A, (Brother Dawkins’s Come Out campaign is big on the Scarlet A) Brother Sam is prepared to throw his full support behind adopting it as our entire iconography, although we might want to consider changing the color to blue or green so the B’s don’t mistake us all for adulterers.

And speaking of Richard Dawkins, he thinks atheists should be called “Brights.” But the idea of referring to myself as a bright gives me the creeps. Whatever my secret notions of my own braininess, I would stop short of just coming right out and saying I was bright. If I was Richard Dawkins, maybe. But I say it, and I right off sound like a horse’s ass. Anybody who goes to mixing personal pronouns with the word bright gets me thinking that they’re not half as goddamn bright as they think they are.

But I have no problem with calling believers non-brights or not-brights. And what’s wrong with dulls? Darks is out of the question for obvious reasons. And I’m not saying that the B need stand for Backward or Behind or Below or Boob or any other pejorative. Surely a simple dignified “B” is to be preferred to any of those.

More troublesome is what to call agnostics, “A” already being taken. Under Brother Dawkins’s naming scheme, they could be not-so-brights or sub-brights or less-than-fully-brights, demibrights, semibrights, hemibrights, or brightitos. Dims.

And just so my agnostic sisters and brothers know, trying to affix an indentifier to agnostics is not easy, especially when you eliminate all the letters of the alphabet. What I came up with is the schwa, which as you know looks like an upside-down little “e” and is pronounced, and this the part that really embodies agnosticism, uh. See? You don’t have to actually call yourselves Schwas. For y’all nothing changes. Somebody mistakes you for an A or a B, you just look at ‘em and say, I’m an uh—

And if you can’t abide the schwa, which I think more than does you justice, you’ll have to settle for C. Confused.






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1/23/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Teaching Christian Morals at the Office

By DocMike




Do you have a guy like this at work?

Many Christians feel the need to save the rest of the world, whether we like it or not. Why can't they just leave us alone?

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1/20/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Rick Warren's True Purpose-Driven Colors

Outside Saddleback Church, Aug 16Image by DClemm via FlickrBy Valerie Tarico

Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life and founder of one of the country's most successful mega-churches was chosen to give the invocation at the Obama inauguration for the same reason Sarah Palen was chosen as McCain's running mate: as a valentine to Evangelicals.

Warren represents the kinder, gentler side of Evangelicalism, what many people like to think of as the Evangelical mainstream. He belongs at some midpoint between Jim (God's Politics) Wallis on one hand, and Fred ("God Hates Fags") Phelps. Theologically, Warren has managed to steer clear of the worst excess of Prosperity Gospel - the God-wants-you-to-be-rich message that has made Joel Olsteen rich indeed. He acknowledges institutionalized injustice as a moral issue and thinks its OK for Christians to care about our planetary life support system. For those looking desperately for someone to embrace--for a way to build bridges between fundamentalists and the rest of us-- Rick Warren seems like a good bet.

But we should not forget what that Evangelical midpoint actually looks like beneath the warm, well-socialized persona. I won't go into blood atonement and biblical literalism here; let's just look at politics. In 2004 Warren sent out a missive to his faithful:
It's important for us to recognize that there can be multiple opinions among Bible-believing Christians when it comes to debatable issues such as the economy, social programs, social security, and the war in Iraq.

But for those of us who accept the Bible as God's Word and know that God has a unique, sovereign purpose for every life, I believe there are 5 issues that are non-negotiable. To me, they're not even debatable because God's Word is clear on these issues. In order to live a purpose-driven life - to affirm what God has clearly stated about his purpose for every person he creates - we must take a stand by finding out what the candidates believe about these five issues, and then vote accordingly.

Here are five questions to ask when considering who to vote for in this election:

1. What does each candidate believe about abortion and protecting the lives of unborn children?
2. What does each candidate believe about using unborn babies for stem-cell harvesting?
3. What does each candidate believe about homosexual marriage?
4. What does each candidate believe about human cloning?
5. What does each candidate believe about euthanasia - the killing of elderly and invalids?

Please, please do not forfeit your responsibility on these crucial issues!

Fascinating isn't it, that 2000 years ago, the Bible writers managed to issue unambiguous statements about stem-cells and cloning? And that despite over a thousand references to poverty and injustice, these are issues on which there can be multiple opinions among Bible believing Christians?

Contrast the questions Warren lists, with a pair from atheist theologian Robert Parson Crosby:
1. What does each candidate believe about love?
2. What does each candidate believe about the poor, and what action will he take?

Crosby's questions happen to mirror two critical teachings of Jesus as portrayed by the Gospel writers: His answer when asked what is the greatest of all the commandments, and the reason He says that people will go to hell. Why aren’t they on Warren’s list?

We should not forget what that Evangelical midpoint actually looks like beneath the warm, well-socialized persona.Mainstream evangelicalism, as a form of theological fundamentalism is about certitude, about simple clarity. The role of the evangelical minister is to help his followers know without a shadow of a doubt what is real and how to live. It is about taking our complicated, fast-moving, sometimes scary world and distilling it into Four Spiritual Laws. If you look at Warren's list, what you will see is that they all have yes/no answers. To answer a yes/no question well can take a lifetime of thoughtful inquiry. But anyone, anyone when given a yes or no answer by a trusted authority figure can remember it, repeat it, and so relax.

Crosby's questions are complicated. They are the kind of questions that each of our secular and religious wisdom traditions has put at the very center of the human quest. They also are the kind that we struggle to answer even for ourselves, the kind for which no set of words suffices to articulate our complicated musings -and no set of policies suffices to heal our world. They are the questions that, when answered imperfectly but well define the moral economy and the common good. They are the questions I want guiding our president. Perhaps one day they will be the questions that guide who gets to invoke the powers that created the universe for him and for us all.

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1/19/2009                                                                                       View Comments

A history of everything



The entire history of life and the cosmos rolled into under 10 minutes.

Video footage used from several educational documentaries.

Music includes:

American Beauty Soundtrack - Thomas Newman - Any Other Name
A perfect circle - Imagine

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How evolution happens


More Nature Videos at 5min.com


Watch evolution unfold before your eyes in this creative video featuring fish, amphibians, reptiles, dinosaurs, mammals, and primates.

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The Evolution of Religions

A video by the University of Southern California College Center for Religion and Civic Culture



Jared Diamond, professor of geography at UCLA, received the Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction in 1998 for Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. In 1999, he received the National Medal of Science. His most recent book is Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2004).

Professor Diamond argues that religion has encompassed at least four independent components that have arisen or disappeared at different stages of development of human societies over the last 10,000 years.

This lecture is approximately 80 minutes long.

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1/18/2009                                                                                       View Comments

A visit to the Creation Museum


SAIU trip to the Creation Museum from Secular Alliance on Vimeo.


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Gott Mit Uns

Submitted by Roan7995



Gott Mit Uns translates to God is with us.

All the photos starting around 3:45 link Nazism and Christian icons/ language. Pause the video and look if you don't see how.

Some in the academic sphere may consider a Reductio Ad Hitlerum argument to be in poor taste, but I think it gets the point across when there is such abundant evidence to support it.

The first song is a cover of the Undersea Palace theme from Chrono Trigger that I made. If you want it, shoot me a message. The 2nd song is Hell Bent, by Kenna. Check out the video for it.

Religious Affiliation of U.S. Presidents http://adherents.com/adh_presidents.html

United States Constitution, Article VI, section 3

Denial of Equal Rights to Religious Minorities and Non-Believers in The United States, B. H. HARTOGENSIS, Yale Law Journal, vol. 39, pp. 659-681

http://money.aol.com/news/articles/_a...

The Encyclopedia of Unbelief by Gordon Stein





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Why Does God Allow Pain?

NANJING, CHINA - NOVEMBER 8:  A child sufferin...Image by Getty Images via DaylifeBy Brother Sam Singleton, Atheist Evangelist

When believers send this kind of crap to Brother Sam, God invariably drops what he’s not doing and annotates it so it can be taken down word for word. Just as surely as Brother Sam employs an amanuensis, so too does God, and that’d be Brother Sam. And Brother Sam hopes he’s not telling tales out of school, but if you ever heard some of God’s messages directly you’d understand why his children have such difficulty with language. As for the crap folks send in, and the aforementioned annotations, Brother Sam lets the human errors stand, but feels obliged to clean up God’s work out of respect for what he used to be back before he turned out to not exist. You shoulda seen him then, slaughtering babies, drowning just and unjust alike, all manner of plagues―

Brother Sam has color coded the parts.

Brother Sam

Believer/Crap Sender

God

Barber

Why God Allows Pain

(blue parts sic)

This was a must share; Really good. This is one of the best explanations of why God allows pain and suffering that I have seen...

A man went to a barbershop to have his hair cut and his beard trimmed. As the barber began to work, they began to have a good conversation. They talked about so many things and various subjects. When they eventually touched on the subject of God, the barber said: “I don’t believe that God exists.”

“Why do you say that?” asked the customer. “Well, you just have to go out in the street to realize that God doesn’t exist. Tell me, if God exists, would there be so many sick people? Would there be abandoned children? If God existed, there would be neither suffering nor pain. I can’t imagine a loving God who would allow all of these things.”

The customer thought for a moment, but didn’t respond because he didn’t want to start an argument. The barber finished his job and the customer left the shop.

Just after he left the barbershop, he saw a man in the street with long, stringy, dirty hair and an untrimmed beard. He looked dirty and unkempt. The customer turned back and entered the barber shop again and he said to the barber:

“You know what? Barbers do not exist.”

“How can you say that?” asked the surprised barber. “I am here, and I am a barber. And I just worked on you!”

“No!” the customer exclaimed. “Barbers don’t exist because if they did, there would be no people with dirty long hair and untrimmed beards, like that man outside.”

“Ah, but barbers DO exist! That’s what happens when people do not come to me.”

“Exactly!” affirmed the customer. “That’s the point! God, too, DOES exist! That’s what happens when people do not go to Him and don’t look to Him for help. That’s why there’s so much pain and suffering in the world.”

If you think God exists, please share this with other people--- BE BLESSED & BE A BLESSING TO OTHERS !!!!!!!

The Apostle Paul himself couldn’t have done a subtler job of capturing both my mean and crazy sides. But I would like to illuminate a few of your finer points, if you don’t mind. I mean, I wouldn’t want to step on anybody’s toes. You want to call this revelation, I will not say you nay.

You are right. The sufferers themselves are responsible for their suffering, seeing as how all they have to do is come to me for relief. I mean, how lazy do you have to be not to get off your starving or disabled or abused ass and come to Jesus?

But sometimes, especially when the ones doing the suffering are babies and little children and old folks, I’d just as soon the blame not get hung on me, even though I can stop it anytime I want.

And I know what the heathens are going to say: that some sufferers are not capable of coming to me because they’re, well, suffering too much to do much of anything except be miserable. So let me just remind you that if I gave a goddamn there wouldn’t be suffering in the first place.

And finally, what the armchair theologians that promulgate this kind of (insert something too filthy even for Brother Sam) fail to grasp is that barbers are omnipotent. And naturally, among their unlimited powers is the ability to instantaneously groom anyone anywhere any time to a fare-thee-well. But they don’t. Because you gotta come to them. I thought Paul covered this stuff. Paul was bald. As soon as he got saved all his hair fell out.

“I’d appreciate it if in the future you’d go somewhere else when you need a trim. The fact is, I cannot trust myself to be near your exposed throat with this straight razor. That, and I’m barely making it as it is and I’d feel obliged to charge you for a child’s haircut, seeing as how you appear to have the intellect of a goddamn five year old. A very slow five year old. Maybe a five year old monkey. A very slow five year old monkey. The kind of monkey you get into some kind of remedial monkey program or some shit so he can keep up with the other monkeys. Only he still can’t because he’s this tragically backward five year old monkey who’s almost half as stupid as you. Poor little monkey.

Here I thought you came back to give me my tip. But no, you parsimonious bastard, you just light into this silly-assed harangue about God and stiff me all over again. To hell with you and the Lord. I want my goddamn gratuity.”





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1/16/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Walking the line

What is truth?Image by laurenipsum via FlickrBy Bill Jeffreys

Occasionally I have to deal with a certain religious person in my life who seems to struggle with being friendly or reasonable with me. This person struggles with being nice to me when I don't do what he wants or when I don't agree with him. It's not that I am trying to be difficult. I attempt to compromise, even though I often feel like telling the person to go jump in a lake. Sometimes I roll my eyes and try to take the high road, meaning I just go along with any request, because it means less drama. I get tired of his attempts at shaming me, guilting me, or simply insulting me and raising his voice at me. I'm constantly walking a fine line with this relationship.

So how do I deal with this relationship today? Do I fight this person, or do I run? Am I for, or against this person? The person I am today understands that if I want to know the truth of a matter, I can neither be "for" nor "against" something. The struggle between these two is the mind's worst disease according to Seng-T'san.

When we discover the truth no one can take it away from us. It is an interesting fact that the when we break into teams (for or against something or someone) we shut down open minded thinking. Our minds seem to naturally separate us either "for" or "against" and thereby divide us against other teams, people, beliefs etc.

The outcome of such "for" or "against" thinking is that it keeps us from the truth. We see it in religion with all the many different religions pitted against one another. We see it within a particular religion with its many different sects and denominations. We see it within our country through its divided political parties. And we see it within marriages when they end.

I have been afforded enough time in my life to have once been for religion and against religion; for a political party and then another; to have been married then divorced. I'm moving toward another path, one where I don't have to be "for" or "against."

I'm simply learning to just be assertive. I share my feelings and thoughts honestly with the hope that the other person will work with me. I don't believe I will change them. I simply hope that the truth will change us both.

I realized long ago that we can never change anyone, we can change only ourselves. I don't strive to be right, I strive to know the truth. I believe the truth helps me live a rational life.

Personal change isn't supernatural and it doesn't depend on another person's actions. Change occurs when we personally discover truth and embrace it.

When we discover the truth no one can take it away from us.

I no longer need to be against this person and neither do I have to be for them. I treat them as honestly as I can with the hope that maybe, just maybe, we can discover that truth is much more rewarding then our own self-serving perceptions.

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1/15/2009                                                                                       View Comments

A Question of Miracles



Faith healing has been around for many years, but the real question is, "Are these supposed healings really miracles?"

To address that question, this six-part documentary follows some well known faith healers on their crusades.

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False hopes and the lies of Christianity

Money GrabImage by Steve Wampler via FlickrBy David S

This is actually my second writing to this website in the last month. In mid-December, 2008, I submitted my testimony as to why I shunned Christianity (and all religious beliefs). So why am I writing again? Because I truly have a passion for people to spread the word about the false promises and lies that Christianity spreads.

My wife of three years commented to me the other night that I have "hoodwinked" her and let her down because we no longer walk hand and hand with Jesus, our Lord and Saviour (well, her Lord and Saviour). My wife is what many would call an extreme Christian, who loves Jesus, believes the Bible is the literal Word of God, etc. When we married I too was walking with Jesus, but certainly was never "hook, line, and sinker" like she. I question how a man could spend 72 hours inside the belly of a whale without being digested; my wife accepts it as truth.

Religious beliefs stunt intellectual growth. Anyway, about a year ago, I renounced my religious beliefs to her, announced I was a hardcore atheist, and it has been a problem that we have swept under the rug in our relationship since. Occasionally, I will still experience some small degrees of guilt that I have let my wife down so much, but I cannot convince myself that all religions aren't delusional and in actuality stump the ability of an individual to have an intellectual understanding of the real world.

From time to time, I will peruse the religious programming on cable television, looking for any kind of sign from the religious prophets of today that the Almighty desires to convince me of his presence, and ultimately bring me back to his loving arms. The other evening, I watched quite a bit of the religious-based programming on cable.

So what did I see during my few hours of Christian programming that is being watched I suspect, by millions of people around the globe?

For one, I saw a pastor named Dr. Coontz of LeSea Ministries running a telethon from Hawaii! He was telling his audience how good God is and that to spread the Gospel to the four corners of the Earth (I am sorry, I didn't think the Earth as a sphere had corners!) he needed an immediate harvest (i.e. money). He was looking for 120 followers (i.e. idiots) who would sow a $1,000 seed in hopes of reaping a harvest themselves from God. He then recited numerous scriptures from the Good Book that promised supernatural favor from the Heavens if only you would show obedience, and trust and sow that $1,000 seed. Then another gentleman (albeit an older one) told the audience that in exchange for this $1,000 seed that Scripture promised that "destruction would come to the person on your left, and your right, and you will see it all about you, but the Lord will protect you." If I ever wanted to literally strangle a religious celebrity this was it. They were essentially promising that the Lord would protect them and provide for them during this terrible time of economic upheaval if only they would sow that seed.

I am sorry, but I have never seen an articles in a newspaper in the last two years that stated "5,000 people lose their jobs at XXX Company, but surprisingly no Christians are among those handed a pink slip." I have never turned on ABC Nightime News and witnessed the anchor man state that "Foreclosures are up again this quarter, but surprising evidence shows that among the millions losing their homes, none of them are Christians who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Saviour."

Why can't people use their brains and see that the current economic crisis that we are in knows no bounds, including your religious faith? Everyone is subject to the same natural laws of our working world.

As the telethon continued, the older gentleman stated that the current crisis we are all involved in is one based heavily on credit (e.g. credit cards) and that Satan had created credit cards as a means of our destruction! Who knew? I thought it was just money hungry banks. Then, he wanted all the people who needed a financial miracle (as millions of us do right now), to use the credit card to sow your seed! Why use the credit card, other than the obvious way to pay for something you really cannot afford? His explanation was that in the Bible, people of faith had often used the weapon created for their destruction against those who had created the weapon. Huh? For example, David slew Goliath with Goliath's own sword. So he was asking people to sow their seed and make a stand with God and show him your faith in Him by using the credit card that Satan had created for your destruction! Am I the only person who feels tremendous disgust that these type of organizations are tax exempt? This guy is a religious Bernie Madoff! In short, I saw nothing on this channel (and I watched for a good 30 mins) that convinced me of a omniscient, omnipotent, benevolent being in the Heavens. What I witnessed was the continued exploitation of the poor, the hopeless, and the delusional people of the world.

I love how God sits idly by on his throne doing nothing, sitting silently...

Other shows during this evening promised the same thing: Dr. Charles Stanley talked about the importance of tithing, and how by strict adherence to tithing the good Lord would start to work miracles in that person's life. He then stated that if people tithed faithfully that God could even keep people out of hospitals, in good health, etc and the audience just sat there mystified! Imagine if everyone would give 10% of their money to God, we could eliminate hospitals altogether! If I had been in that audience, I promise I would have stood up and debated him about such bunk and demanded evidence! Yet all these people in the audience (i.e. lemmings) just sat there mystified as if they had been given the secrets of the Universe. It occurred to me as I watched his show that in no other "father/son" relationship that we encounter are we asked to give so much monetarily to the father who is to provide for us. Think about it: as you grew up, you more than likely did a few chores around the house in exchange for a weekly allowance. In other words, you participated in some good works, and your father rewarded you monetarily. Religion completely flips the script. Now all good works are of the Father, and you have to give Him money to show your continued obedience. To me, the only times I have heard about the sons providing monetarily for their father is when the father is incapable of providing for himself! Ah Ha! Much like our powerful (powerless) God! To see what I consider the funniest rant on religion and money watch George Carlin's speech on YouTube.

Another show included four speakers who conversed among themselves why they were excited about the imminent return of Christ. One gentleman said he physically wanted to see Jesus (Yeah, stand in line buddy; trillions of us want to physically see him.), and touch his hands where the nails had been, and bow down at his feet, thanking him for all He had done. I thought to myself, "Won't there be a long line to worship him? Do you need to take a number? How do you know you will be first in line?"

Another gentlemen spoke that he wanted to see Satan get what was coming to him. The fallen angel had started all the wars, the famine, the birth defects that we see today and it was time for payback! I thought Christianity was a religion of peace, of forgiveness, etc... Hmmmmm... Lastly, another gentleman said that wanted to see what the world was meant to be like when Jesus returned to set up his 1,000-year kingdom. He stated that plants like poison ivy would be eradicated and that meat eating animals would stop eating meat. That our world that we have experienced since birth would be replaced by the peaceful world that God had intended! What crap! Can you imagine sharks not eating not eating smaller fish, of lions not eating zebras, etc? Anyone heard of survival of the fittest? Anyway, no evidence of a Holy Spirit, wonder working God on this network.

The final show from Sid Roth Ministries told the story of a preacher named Seymour in the early 1900s who was witness to all sorts of miracles. With prayer, Mr. Seymour was actually able to regenerate a severed arm of one of his members with the help of the Holy Spirit! I imagine that this website would not even exist if you and I saw this kind of evidence in our lives. Imagine someone you know supernaturally growing a severed limb because of his or her faith in God! I think we all know where we would be Sunday morning! A great website to see on this topic is www.whywontgodhealamputees.com. But on this television network, more fantasy stories with no such evidence whatsoever!

In conclusion, I saw nothing on any of these networks that indicated to me that there is some wonder working God in control of our lives and I find it interesting that so many people without question believe it to be so. I must tell you if these are the people I saw on television that God has chosen to spread his Kingdom He should not be surprised that the belief in Him is waning and that faith is on the decline.

Outside of my television experience, I recently got into a debate with an individual who stated to me that "His Road to Damascus" experience was that God had steered his vehicle back onto the roadway when it appeared he was heading for a high speed collision with a wall. It's hard to debate someone when they feel that God saved them personally from a premature death. I then asked him why didn't this wonderful God save Stephen Curtis Chapman's adopted daughter from being run over by his son when he accidentally backed up the family SUV in the driveway? I mean, Mr. Chapman's music has inspired millions to want a relationship with God; shouldn't he receive a little bit of supernatural grace and favor down her on Earth in saving his daughter? Is that asking too much? I mean, it is a relationship right? A two-way street? Well, he replied, God must have greater plans for her in Heaven. The standard no thought required Christian response which essentially states, "I am still here and all I know is that God worked a miracle for me. If God didn't help someone else in their life on Earth, then he must be with them in Heaven". It completely ignores the ills that befall our fellow man as God is excused from any tragedy that plagues us.

I am terribly saddened when I see people clinging to a belief system that promises rewards and ultimately delivers very few if any miracles. I know people that see no evidence of God ordained miracles in their lives, and instead of questioning why they do not, cling to those beliefs even more! As their finances dwindle, and their constant prayers go unanswered, they watch more Joyce Meyer, buy another Joel Osteen book, thumb another Joyce Meyer magazine, attend another service at church, all in a desperate hope to show God that they are being faithful, and waiting for His blessings. I am saddened that an adult who lives in reality can still cling to such fantasy, essentially ignoring all the evidence around.

Religious beliefs stunt intellectual growth. Go to Youtube and search "question of miracles." It is a six-part series on Benny Hinn and the "Miracles" of God. If that doesn't convince anyone of religious faith that there is no one in Heaven listening, nothing will.

Thanks for reading and I welcome replies!

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1/14/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Scientific Breakthroughs from the Bible (Part III)

By DocMike

The describes a flat, circular Earth sitting on pillars, with a dome over it, which contained the Sun, the Moon, and the stars. lived in and on the dome. The Moon made its own light and the stars were just smaller lights in the night sky. The Earth was the center of everything. It remained still, while the Sun, Moon, and stars moved over it.

Of course this is probably what everyone believed around the time the Bible was written, but wouldn’t the creator of the universe, an omniscient god, know better?

Here are some verses that illustrate the Bible authors’ obvious ignorance about these things:

Genesis 1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

1 Samuel 2:8 … for the pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and he hath set the world upon them.

1 Chronicles 16:30 Fear before him, all the earth: the world also shall be stable, that it be not moved.

Job 9:6 Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.

Isaiah 13:10 For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.

Isaiah 40:22 It is he that sitteth upon the circle of the earth, and the inhabitants thereof are as grasshoppers; that stretcheth out the heavens as a curtain, and spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in:

Daniel 4:10 Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great.
Daniel 4:11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth:

Daniel 4:20 The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth;

Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

NOTE: This last verse demonstrates that Matthew thought one could see the entire Earth from the top of a mountain. This could only be true on a flat earth.



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1/13/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Is God a voyeur?

Dambulla monkey prayingImage by Travlr via FlickrBy Dano

I no longer believe in the God of the Bible. He is too vindictive, jealous, mean, and easily offended. In other words, he is too much like a human tyrant. So, I pray to my own version of the creator, or supreme being, if you will.

My version of god is bigger and certainly more resourceful and intelligent than Bible-god, who can't even figure out that since he made everything, including all forms of life, that he is ultimately responsible for how we all behave. I figure that a true god, being perfect, wouldn't need or want a bunch of "educated monkeys" worshiping him, and I figure that any God worth his/her salt can do anything. So I pray that he will make it possible for me to win the lottery. Yes! I buy a ticket every month! Why not? That's what gods are for, isn't it? To ask for things?

Certainly me winning 90 million dollars would mean very little to a supreme being who is capable of creating a universe, or many universes, in the blink of an eye. So why not humor me with enough money to buy most of the things that would make me happy, thus eliminating the necessity of my constantly bothering him?

I don't bother "it" about the obvious things that need its attention, like, you know, asking "it" to stop human suffering, wars, babies starving to death, birth defects, or an explanation as to why he even made us (his favorite living creatures, whom he waited five billion years to evolve), so much like chimpanzees, but without some of the more redeeming qualities of our first cousins. (I doubt that a chimp would ever come up with a scheme that promised his brothers two bananas next week for just one now, thus perpetuating a banana Ponzi scheme where even the old and weak were giving him their hard earned bananas).

I figure that a true god, being perfect, wouldn't need or want a bunch of "educated monkeys" worshiping him... Indeed I'm sure that god is far too busy deciding who will win each of the high school, college, and professional athletic matches all over the world, and what piece of bread, wood, or otherwise mundane trivial object, that is worthy to display his picture, which leads me back to why I pray for it to intercede, and make "my Lotto numbers" come up.

I have observed that every winner of a big lottery jackpot, as soon as they get in front of a news camera, thanks God for answering their prayers, and many of them make their first gesture of largess, an act of giving a bunch of money to their favorite church or charity. I figure if a meat packer in Iowa has his prayer answered, what can it hurt for me to ask for a large amount of money.

I'm absolutely positive that the God that created us with the primary imperative to survive and reproduce, would be proud of me if I used the money to buy a hot set of wheels, and a huge house that will attract a good looking babe, and at least went through the motions, being that at my age it ain't likely I'll produce any more of my species than I already have.

I suppose I'll be more like an elder statesman for Hedonism, which seems a lot more natural to me than going around telling people that ,"He" speaks to me, and desperately wants me to believe a bronze age story about how he fathered a son with a human virgin girl , and then arranged to have the boy murdered as a blood sacrifice to himself etc.. All this, in an age when blood sacrifices to Gods have long been out of fashion. If God wanted me to believe stuff like that, he wouldn't have given me any reasoning ability at all.

No, my version of god, by definition is far too big and benevolent to care about such things as blood sacrifices, although I'm not too sure that he isn't a bit of a voyeur, when it comes to making sure that we are reproducing properly. -- "OH God!"



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Sex Sells - Even in church

Madison Avenue, looking north from 40th StreetImage via Wikipedia
As Madison Avenue has shown us, sex, with the right mix of pop culture and edge can sell almost anything –Coca Cola, the Joker—or, as it turns out, the theological equivalent of either.

By Valerie Tarico

This weekend's NYT Magazine featured a piece by Molly Worthen about Seattle megachurch Mars Hill: "Who Would Jesus Smack Down?". The article, like the church itself, leads with titillation. And as in the church itself, the titillation is an opener for Calvinism – the kind of fundamentalism that says we are all utterly depraved, doomed to eternal torture – except that the God of Calvin has chosen a lucky inside group for salvation.

Having been to Mars Hill, I can assure you the racy talk in the article doesn’t happen just during sermons about sex. At a evangelistic rally on the University of Washington campus last year, the church’s founder and star, Mark Driscoll, began by expressing the angst he felt when his zipper got stuck right before the opening rock band went on. A few minutes later he commented that he needed to end on time because his wife had cream pies (his favorite) waiting at home. Being, as I am, old and out of it, a college-age friend had to explain the popular allusion.

It’s no divine accident that membership at Mars Hill has gone from zero to five figures in just over ten years. As Madison Avenue has shown us, sex, with the right mix of pop culture and edge can sell almost anything –Coca Cola, the Joker—or, as it turns out, the theological equivalent of either. Mars Hill is the leader in a group of churches that have gotten the concoction close to perfect: jeans-with-bulges in the pulpit, piercings, beer, and blood atonement.

It would be funny if, well, if it wasn’t so real.

A few years ago, I attended Mars Hill right before Easter. Mr. Driscoll was at work convincing his audience that the Resurrection was a historical event. He said, “If the Resurrection didn’t literally happen, there’s no reason for us to be here. There are parties to be had. There are women to be had. There are guns to shoot. There are people to shoot.”

Women to be had?! People to shoot?! @*a&k!

The audience laughed.

Now, if all that is standing between Mr. Driscoll and debauchery, lechery and murder is some belief that a literal Jewish rabbi literally rose from the dead 2000 years ago, I’m very glad this is what he believes. Some people shouldn’t have their religion messed with. But did you catch what he was implying about the rest of us – all the Christians who think of the resurrection as a symbolic, spiritual reality and all of the non-believers who think of it as bunk? Depraved. Utterly.

The problem with theology is that it is powerful. It has consequences that are moral, social and political. It can take kind smart people and make them even more scrupulous and generous. It can also take kind smart people and make them care more about gay marriage than war. It can take marginal alcoholics and make them into dry do-gooders. It can also take marginal alcoholics and get them to beat gay people to death. It can save lives, as believers can attest. And it can trash them, as former believers at ExChristian.net also attest. It can take ordinary college students and tattoo artists and make them think the rest of us are depraved.

The theology of places like Mars Hill is dark and uncompromising by design. Originally, it reflected the violent Reformation in which it emerged, and today it mirrors the youth culture in which it is packaged. Information technology and social complexity threaten traditional he-man virtues and, at times, overwhelm all of us. Calvinism offers a theology that fits for former football stars and body builders as well as young people who are hungry for solid answers—answers that are less complicated than the world they inherited.

When I once visited the mega-church of Driscoll’s mentor, a Seattle fundie-celeb named Ken Hutcherson, I got to experience a thirty minute pop/biblical/stand-up riff against girlie-men (and gays). The multi-racial, multi-generational working class audience was eating it up. At one crescendo Hutcherson said, “If I was at a drug store and some guy opened the door for me, I’d rip off his arm and beat him with the wet end.” Just like Jesus, don’t you know.

A friend of mine attends an open inquiring Anglican church, the kind that has female clergy and allows Buddhists to borrow space for meditation in the evenings, the kind that is more aligned with open source spirituality or Common Wisdom than Calvinism. At a soccer game in the fall, she commented that her teenager liked Mars Hill. Mom was sympathetic; the rock band and rock climbing seemed a lot more enticing than liturgy and stained glass. She became dismayed, though, when I mentioned a little of what lay beneath the tech and tattoos: a literally perfect Bible, Jesus as a human sacrifice, and complementarianism (a separate-but-equal approach to gender). Suddenly, she didn’t want her daughter under Driscoll’s influence.

These churches appeal to kids, because they try to. One of Mars Hill’s top competitors, City Church, has a skateboard church, "the Mvmnt" and a latte bar – replete with dark, edgy art and boards. This fall, City Church got busted because one of their volunteer "tutors” was soliciting kids in my daughter’s public middle school lunchroom!

If you’re the kind of parent who cares about what Hollywood is feeding your kid, don’t take it for granted that the hip, cool (in middle-school words "pimp, tight, filthy, sick") church down the street—-or the one handing out shiny cards in the lunchroom--offers a better alternative.

Valerie Tarico is the author of The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.

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